What is a Smart Sprinkler or Smart Irrigation System and why do you need one? Let’s take a look at Rainmachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop.
Have you ever faced a situation in which you have just watered the lawn and in a few minutes it starts to rain? All the water and electricity that you spent on doing so seems like a waste. You can easily save on your utility bills only if you could predict the weather and knew how much water your plants need. Now you must be thinking, but how would I keep a tab of so many factors before irrigating my lawn? You need not! That’s the power of Smart Sprinklers and Irrigation Controllers.
Their brains (read controllers) are so well programmed and integrated with the internet that they can take these decisions for you. Instead of fixed timers, these systems make use of data acquired from sensors, weather forecasts and plant-care databases to decide how much water is needed and for what duration they need to run to provide the perfect moisture for the Tulips growing in your backyard.
All of these tasks are synchronized and controlled via mobile and web apps connected to the controller via Wi-Fi. The Smart Sprinkler Systems mentioned in this guide are EPA WaterSense Certified and are eligible for utility rebates in most of the communities. You need to contact your water authorities for more information on the same.
Now that you know you can save $$ on your utility bills and automate your irrigation at your fingertips, let me help you determine the best sprinkler controller for your use.
Rainmachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop Showdown
Rainmachine Sprinkler Controller
The Rainmachine comes in three variants each with the ability to control 8, 12 and 16 zones respectively.
The RainMachine gets weather forecast from NOAA.GOV, Metno, Forecast.io, NetAtmo, or Wunderground Personal Weather Station for precise, realtime weather information and this data is updated several times a day.
The Rainmachine mini is integrated to Amazon Alexa and Nest via IFTTT. The 12 zone and 16 zone variants have open API and integrate with Alexa, Nest, WINK and SmartThings through IFTTT.
RainMachine is cloud independent by design, all personal data is stored locally and only reliance is NOAA.GOV weather forecast and claims 80% water savings. The controller continues to work even when Wi-Fi is down. If you are away from your phone or laptop, you can still manually change the system settings via the display panel.
Rachio Sprinkler Controller
The Rachio also known as the “Most connected sprinkler controller” offers kits for 8 and 16 zones. The controller is completely cloud based. You have to use your phone, computer or other device to set up and control Rachio. There are no display panel or manual controls present on the controller.
Like its competitors, Rachio is EPA WaterSense certified and thus is eligible for rebates via local water authorities. The Rachio checks with NOAA and several other weather services to know when to water based on forecasts. It also lets you select from nearby weather stations. Through these calculations the smart sprinkler claims 50% water savings. The Rachio can also be connected to a Personal Weather Station by following these instructions: Connect my PWS to Rachio.
Rachio works with Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Show for voice control and has IFTTT integration, allowing you to automate your sprinklers with certain rules. It also works with: Control4, Wink, Crestron and Nexia.
The Mobile and Web App of Rachio calculates needed water based on types of plants, soil, and sun exposure. Just input the info and let the app do the work. The setup of the 2nd generation Rachio is simplified by just holding your smart phone near the controller and entering the serial number to link up. You can also share your access with irrigation professionals and other family members.
You can take a look at the walk-through of the Rachio app on the official website.
Amazon provides expert installation services for the Rachio.
Skydrop Sprinkler Controller
The Skydrop is not completely cloud dependent and can be manually controlled with the help of a jog-dial and a LCD screen. The controller can be used to monitor and manage watering from your computer, smartphone or tablet, Alexa, or Text Message.
The Skydrop comes as an 8 zone controller with an option of extending to 16 zones after purchasing the 8 zone expansion module. You also have an option of buying it along with Amazon Professional Installation service.
Skydrop’s Self-Regulating Controller customizes watering based on current hyper-local weather data to make sure your lawn and garden get exactly the water they need, across each unique zone. Having said that, the Skydrop does not support the addition of a PWS.
Skydrop is EPA WaterSense Certified and rebate is available in certain areas with upto 100% retail value. 50% Savings is what Skydrop claims. Skydrop setup is simple and you can get it started in no time without any special tools or expertise.
Skydrop gives you more ways to control the system and more options. You can connect to your Amazon Echo, Tap or Dot, Nest, Philips Hue and any other platform that works with IFTTT.
Rainmachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop – the winner is:
RainMachine for us has taken the edge over Rachio and Skydrop. The ability of the Rainmachine to be cloud independent and open source makes it the better sprinkler controller.
All the controllers are EPA WaterSense certified and are eligible for rebate. Rachio is for the ones who want to control their irrigation systems on the go, but we feel that there is a need for some kind of manual control.
The Skydrop is the most pocket friendly but lacks a few advanced features. Also, it is not very efficient to manually control the Skydrop with the help of a jog-dial.
Outdoor Enclosures for Smart Sprinkler Controllers
It is possible to mount the controllers outdoors. Just make sure that it is close to the Wi-Fi source and that there are not many walls present between the controller and the Wi-Fi source. The outdoor enclosures help to protect the controllers from humidity, rain, wind, and sun damage.
The Rachio and the Skydrop controllers have their company manufactured outdoor enclosures. Whereas, the Rainmachine works well with the Orbit Outdoor Enclosure.
Sensors for Sprinkler Controllers- Rainmachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop
You can increase the accuracy of your smart controller by incorporating external sensors. Some of the sensors are rain, freeze, and flow sensors. The rain sensor would stop the watering if it detects rain or a sudden drop in temperature. The above mentioned controllers are compatible with quite a few sensors. Below are official resources that guide you with setting up your controller to work with different sensors.
Skydrop Sensor Installation: It works only if you have the expansion module.
You can buy some of the leading rain sensors from the ones below:
Also Read Rainmachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop Buying Guide Schlage vs Kwikset vs Lockitron - Smart Deadbolts Also read our review of the Amazon Echo Show